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Italian Easter Bread with Dyed Eggs

Italian Easter Bread with Dyed Eggs
8 votes, 4.00 avg. rating (79% score)

Italian Easter Bread with dyed eggs is a traditional Easter bread dish featuring sweetened bread dough shaped into a wreath with colored Easter eggs tucked into it before baking. While still edible, the placement of the dyed eggs in the bread is symbolic rather than culinary. Eggs are a common Easter symbol, not only for their popular use in egg hunts, but more directly for their historical association with fertility and re-birth. Easter celebrates Jesus rising from the dead, and thus, the egg and Easter have been firmly linked.

Eggs were also originally forbidden during Lent (the 40 days before Easter), so when the big day came perhaps it was time to enjoy them again with gusto.

Italian Easter Bread

Photo/Art by Aimee SeaveyItalian Easter Bread with Dyed eggs is both a beautiful and delicious table centerpiece.

My family is Italian Catholic on my maternal grandfather’s side, and while I spent many Easters wriggling on a pew in church before visiting my Great Grammy in Everett, MA with my sisters and cousins, where we lined up for the obligatory douse of Grammy’s holy water, I don’t remember ever having Italian Easter Bread.

Me, my cousins Jaime and Mark, and sister Courtney at Great Grammy's on Easter in the late 80's.

Me, my cousins Jaime and Mark, and sister Courtney at Great Grammy’s on Easter in the late 80′s.

Surely I would have remembered a sweet, braided bread with dyed Easter eggs snuggled down inside, right?

Well, after years of admiring Italian Easter Bread with dyed eggs when it showed up in magazines and on food blogs each spring, this year I decided to make my own.

The dough is a basic sweet yeast dough, and once it was set to rise I got out my hard-boiled eggs. I hadn’t dyed Easter eggs since the early 1990′s, but unlike so many other things from childhood, the process is pretty much exactly the same today. Wanting my eggs to look like authentic birds’ eggs, I tried to get them the perfect shade of pale turquoise.

Then, I mixed a bit of brown gel food coloring with water and got out a fresh toothbrush. By dipping the head of the toothbrush into the dye and then running my thumb over it, I was able to “spray” speckles of brown onto the eggs. I practiced first onto a paper towel and suggest you do the same.

Food coloring and a toothbrush help create an authentic speckle to dyed eggs.

Photo/Art by Aimee SeaveyFood coloring and a toothbrush help create an authentic speckle to dyed eggs.

Once the dough was ready, chopped almonds and candied fruit (or raisins) were kneaded in. I had a surplus of golden raisins on hand, so that’s what I used. Then it was cut in half, and each half rolled out into a long, thin rope. The fruit and nuts made this a little tricky by forming air pockets inside the dough ropes, but with a little firm coaxing they were long enough. After wrapping the two ropes together and forming a wreath, the strands were separated enough to nestle a dyed egg firmly between them.

After twisting the strands together, gently separate and insert eggs.

Photo/Art by Aimee SeaveyAfter twisting the strands together, gently separate and insert eggs.

You can use our recipe for sweet yeasted bread at the end of this post, or substitute your own favorite sweet dough or challah recipe.

Beautiful baked Easter bread with dyed eggs!

Photo/Art by Aimee SeaveyBeautiful baked Easter bread with dyed eggs!

Out of the oven the bread will fill your kitchen with the intoxicating smell of sweet homemade bread. Unfortunately, the egg dye bled in the oven, but since there was nothing I could do about it I just tried to draw the eye elsewhere by using a liberal hand with the glaze and sprinkles that are optional (but strongly encouraged) on Italian Easter Bread. Just keep the glaze off the eggs.

A sugary glaze and colored sprinkles make things even more festive.

Photo/Art by Aimee SeaveyA sugary glaze and colored sprinkles make things even more festive.

This bread makes a gorgeous Easter centerpiece, and is a holiday tradition for many families. Yes, it’s a little unusual to stick hard-boiled eggs into your bread before baking it, and then pry them out the next day to make egg salad for lunch (like I did), but it sure is fun.

And the final result was also delicious. Sweet and light with just enough almond and raisin filling to make it special. Why not make Italian Easter Bread with dyed eggs this year and add a new tradition to your Easter table?

Sweet and dense Italian Easter Bread!

Photo/Art by Aimee SeaveySweet and dense Italian Easter Bread!

Italian Easter Bread Links

View and Print the Original Recipe
Save the recipe for Italian Easter Bread to Recipe Box

Aimee Seavey

Author:

Aimee Seavey

Biography:

Assistant Editor Aimee Seavey is a staff writer for Yankee Magazine and assists in the development and promotion of content for YankeeMagazine.com through blogging and social media outlets.
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9 Responses to Italian Easter Bread with Dyed Eggs

  1. Jackie Keech March 4, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    In the LaBella family, the Italian, or perhaps Sicilian Easter bread design was done two ways: like small purses, or baskets for the girls complete with twisted dough handle and a colored egg on the purse covered with a lattice pocket.
    Boys were given a rooster shape dough with the egg under an attached wing.

    I never did make a decent dough but they were beautiful to look at. Perhaps I should try again

  2. Rosemary Royko Rosella March 26, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    This bread brings back such wonderful memories, Each good friday in our Italian household my nuna would make the dough 25lbs. of flour at a time oh it was so much fun I would help her do it and let me tell you we did it all by hand. her hands were so big, all her recips read 2 handfulls of this and that. so one day my aunt had to measure her hands so we knew what to mix. what fun w had. her breads look like yours and were so delisious. Then on saturday my dad and I would deliver them to all the family members. What a wonderful up bringing we had. They are all gone now and I try to keep up the triduction and make breads and give it to friends, just not the same but it makes me fill good. so here goes another year of wonderful memories and hopefully good bread.

  3. Jennifer April 7, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    Those eggs are beautiful! Is it really just brown food coloring, though? The flecks appear to be more of a shimmery gold. I’d love to recreate them!

    • Aimee Seavey April 8, 2014 at 9:39 am #

      Hi Jennifer! It was just brown food coloring – maybe the way the sun was hitting it in the photos made it look a little shimmery? If you want, you could always play around with some of that edible gold dust that’s on the market these days. Thanks for your comment!

  4. ARTHUR R DETORE April 16, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    MS SEAVEY,I AM ORIGINALLY FORM EVERETT MA,BORN IN 1934 AND LEFT FOR AN ARMY CAREER IN 1954 I KNEW EVERY ITALIAN FAMILY IN EVERETT AT THE TIME ,AN WONDERING HOW WELL I MIGHT HAVE KNOWN YOUR ANCESTERS FROM EVERETT .I STILL HAVE FAMILY AND FRIENDS IN EVERETT,REVERE AND N.H,=====MY MOTHER AND I MADE EASTER BREAD TOGEATHER FOR MANY YEARS AND SHE TAUGHT ME WELL,,IN 24 YEARS IN THE ARMY I MADE IT WITH PEOPLE IN MANY PART OF THE WORLD,I NEVER CLAIMED IT AS THE BEST ,BUT EVERY TIME I MADE IT, IT DISAPPEARED TODAY ILL USE YOU RECIPE. IF I CAN FIND IT =====PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHO YOU PEOPLE WERE FROM EVERETT. RESECTFULLY , ARTHUR R DETORE.

    • Aimee Seavey April 16, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

      Hello Mr. Detore. I’m so glad to hear that you have fond memories of making Italian Easter Bread! No doubt your fellow soldiers also appreciated it each year. :) My grandfather Albert Generazzo’s mother Mary Dolaser was from Saugus before moving to Chelsea once she married my great-grandfather, and later they ended up in Everett – I believe during the early or mid 1940′s? Maybe you’ve met a Dolaser, Generazzo, or Diorio (my grandfather’s cousins Rosemarie, Franny, and Charlie were/are the latter). It all gets a little tangled, but I’m so glad you shared a comment! Happy Easter to you!

  5. Bill Thomas April 16, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    What is the proper way to store this bread. Since it has hard boiled eggs, must it be refrigerated?

    • Aimee Seavey April 16, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

      Hi Bill. It’s best to make the bread close to when you’re going to serve it for the very reason you mentioned. If you have leftovers that need storing, I’d suggest gently removing the eggs and storing them in the fridge, while the bread can be wrapped in plastic wrap or stored in a large zip-top bag at room temperature for another day or 2.

  6. Gretchen Grey-Hatton April 17, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    Aimee,

    Imagine my surprise as I’m searching for Easter bread recipes to find one from a gal in my hometown! I graduated EHS in 1991. Know that your Everett connections reach beyond our small town and that your recipe will be baked in Portland, OR this year; thanks for your post!

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